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3 reasons doctors may be accused of breaching noncompete clauses

When it comes to breach of contract disputes that arise between health systems and doctors, many unnecessary courtroom battles have been fought over a sheer misunderstanding of the contract terms.

One common misinterpretation happens when physicians attempt to make sense of the distance within which medicine may be practiced after leaving their prior job behind. Administrators at medical care facilities are well aware that patients tend to be loyal to their doctors and will generally follow them wherever they go if they remain local.

This is one of the reasons that a noncompete clause that you'll be asked to sign as a newly hired medical system physician establishes a protected zone you'll be prohibited from practicing within if you leave them.

Many physicians will incorrectly assume that the protected zone is measured from the hospital or clinic they work out of alone. This is often not the case though. In most cases, a protected zone may extend beyond the reaches of the farthest out clinic in the medical facility's system, whether you've ever worked in it or not.

Along the same vein, as a physician, you should be should be weary of noncompete agreements and the geographical limitations that are written into them. While it's not uncommon for them to restrict your practice of medicine within a geographic area, as referenced above, very few doctors come to think about affiliated facilities as one in the same.

This is why it's important to consider potential affiliate relationships a hospital may have. If you don't, then you'll likely find yourself having to travel a significant distance for your next job.

Another commonly misinterpreted situation doctors find themselves often battling over involves the amount of notice that must be given to terminate contracts. In situations in which the noncompete agreement states that a physician can terminate current employment within 60 days, this is often misinterpreted for the amount of notice that must be given.

Instead, this often refers to the time frame within which a doctor must give notice to the hospital that they wish to terminate a renewal contract. Any notice given outside of this time frame may be considered a breach of contract.

Before you sign a noncompete clause with a health system you're looking at as a prospective employer, it may be beneficial to have a Melbourne attorney review it to ensure it's not overly restrictive.

Source: A Med News, "5 steps for employed physicians to resolve contract disputes," accessed Feb. 07, 2018

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